Colorful content like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's "PonPonPon" goes viral overseas for its supposed bizarreness while resonating in a realer way at home.
The crowd last month at Laforet Harajuku, an upscale shopping complex in Tokyo's most fashionable area, looked like it'd stepped out of Barbie's very messy dream house. Its members wore oversized bows, eyeball-shaped pinky rings, spiky neck collars, and pink—lots and lots of pink. They'd assembled to watch Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, a new face in J-Pop whose debut album Pamyu Pamyu Revolution was arriving in stores that day. She emerged dressed like her fans, with a giant bow on her head and in a dress designed like a Rubik's cube. For 30 minutes she performed her brand of cheery pop in front of a stage featuring building blocks, rotating teddy bear heads, and purple tentacles.
This mish-mash of imagery—cute meets creepy meets colorful—has helped turn Kyary (real name Kiriko Takemura) into one of the hottest young pop stars in Japan today and an Internet curio abroad. Powered by her surreal music videos and fashion sense, her first album debuted at the No. 2 spot on Japan's Oricon Charts, and her face has become inescapable (one could walk into a convenience store in May and see her on five magazine covers). She's also selling in America, recently topping the iTunes electronic charts, and her videos have gone viral abroad, sparking comment sections across the web loaded with one-liners like "who needs acid when we have this" and "Japan is weird."